close
Friday July 19, 2024

Number of students fleeing Bishkek exceeds 4,000: Dar

Dar announced to set up a fact-finding committee to determine how the events of the mob attacks

By Mariana Baabar
May 23, 2024
Students returning from Bishkek are receieved by Pakistani authorities at Islamabad airport. — Screengrab via YouTube/Geo News/File
Students returning from Bishkek are receieved by Pakistani authorities at Islamabad airport. — Screengrab via YouTube/Geo News/File

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday, after returning from a hurried visit to Bishkek, said that the number of Pakistani students who fled Kyrgyzstan following the May 18 mob attacks has surpassed 3,000, and was expected to exceed 4,000 by midnight Wednesday.

Dar announced to set up a fact-finding committee to determine how the events of the mob attack unfolded and the committee would meet with all relevant people, including members of the Kyrgyz government. “The committee will also assess how the issue was handled by our mission and how much responsibility they took. They had established two helplines on WhatsApp. But one side of the story is not enough. The committee will be notified today and within two weeks must submit a report on its findings,” Dar told the media at the Foreign Office.

Meanwhile, the foreign minister said that another issue of importance related to 1,100 undocumented Pakistani workers in Bishkek. “The second thing I want to talk about, which I was shocked to hear, was that we have about 1,100 workers there, who came in the guise of tourists and then started working without any visa or legal documents,” he said.

After speaking to the relevant authorities there and requesting them, Dar said Pakistan’s request was adhered to and now instead of being deported, proper work visas would be issued to these Pakistanis. He added that he was grateful to the deputy Kyrgyz prime minster for immediately obliging the request and getting it approved by the National Security Committee and immigration ministry and authorities.

He expressed his gratitude to his counterpart, Jeenbek Kulubaev, for arranging for him to immediately fly from Astana — where he attended a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) — to Bishkek. There, he visited the National Hospital, met with a Pakistani student, Shahzaib, who has sustained a jaw injury. He noted that the patient had expressed a strong desire to return home and undertake further treatment there, which the Kyrgyz authorities obliged at Dar’s request. Dar was informed by his counterpart that the president had made a public statement saying he would not tolerate any such incidents, adding that foreign students and workers are valuable guests who contribute to Kyrgyzstan’s economy. According to Dar, the president said intelligence agencies had identified and also arrested perpetrators of the attack. Dar said, “I asked the ambassador why this whole incident had escalated so much. Now, the students are scared, as per my assessment.” He noted that he had conveyed to the Kyrgyz deputy prime minister and foreign minister that it was their responsibility to send delegations to meet with Pakistani students at the hostel and assure them of recent developments being discussed.

A further 513 students will return on flights arranged by the federal government, while 290 students will return on flights arranged for by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government. “So that brings the total to 4,036 students. This is a big number,” Dar said. “The government, particularly the Foreign Ministry, will monitor this closely, and we will immediately take all actions necessary.”

When asked about what arrangements the government has made for the students who have returned to Pakistan, Dar acknowledged that their medical future was already in question. “The Higher Education Commission does not recognise the medical certificates students obtain from abroad. PM Shehbaz has already constituted a committee under my watch to figure out the solution to this issue,” Dar said. According to Dar, students in their final year of university were keen to stay back in Bishkek, and that the majority of students who returned to Pakistan were in the initial stages of their education. Students who are in their final year of studies should come back after completing their degree, Dar suggested.